Sunday, July 7, 2013

Another Week, Another Spot.

I took a week off from camping to hang out with my dad, and now I am back, we have private and group lessons tomorrow, and I am in a new camping spot.  Also went from a 2 person tent I could hardly fit in to a 6 person tent.  It’s the same tent I used two years ago.

Yea I know.  Back when I thought of the title Camping Lifeguard this is not what I had in mind either, but if they need me at the pool, I am only a moment away.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

Sunday, June 23, 2013

And the rain rain rain came down down down...

Wow still remember that song from Winnie the Pool.  And like the 100 Acre Woods we are getting dumped on!  6+ inches around here in the last 2 days.

Not my camp site but the RV park near home was flooded out.  See the school house?  The 5' wide creek is on this side of the school.  All the rest was filled with campers and RVs.  When we took this most of them were on the street trying to figure out what to do.
 My cousin Chris.

And these are from where I camp.  My car bottoms out quite a bit.  Not going to bike to work until its repaired.

My tent was a little damp when I checked it this morning but otherwise it was fine.  Nothing a towel and cup can't fix.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis, the camping lifeguard.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What will we do today?

At 1055 I have makeup swimlessons planned. Might need to make them up another day. 

Hail!  We've got hail!  Pea sized but I think I missed my chance to go to my car. Yay for dry tents, even if they look like a sith. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Summer is finally here!  Saw my first lightning bug. I was wondering when that would happen.
As I write this I hear an owl to the south of me calling. My coworkers think I'm nuts for camping almost every night this summer, but as I bike down the hill and see my tent at the campsite, I feel happy. 

From the mobile guy with his eye on the sky, Travis, the camping lifeguard. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Spring Grove. 6 years later.

Even though in less than 7 hours I have swim lessons I cannot sleep, so I am going to write.

I am writing this to those who come from the Spring Grove Swim Center Facebook page  Most of you only know me from signing up for swim lessons this summer or from lifeguarding (or on TV during a city council meeting), but I am not new.  In 2007 I lifeguarded at the Spring Grove Swim Center (or Family Swim Center, or Aquatic Center, or just pool).  2007.  6 years ago.  The lifeguard I work with now were only 10 or 12 when I was last there.  I may have even told them to walk...and now they are doing the same to me.

One of the lifeguards I worked with back then is even still at the pool now.  I even remembered her face so when I first met all the people I was going to be working with there was one familiar face.  Well of them look a lot like one of the guards I worked with back then and I have trouble keeping the two names separate.

6 years and everything looks the same.  The umbrellas are the same color, light strips on top of the slides, same potholes in the road, same blue paint color, same lion mouth water fountain, even the same rescue tubes I think.  Only one thing is different (well there are a few but thats another story or two).

This year, I am pool manager.  Where is my cape and goggles?

I haven’t asked if I could use their names but I am working with some great people this year.  There is the other manager, who like me, just wanted to be head lifeguard and now we are in charge of everything from food to pool to cleaning out filters.  Poor frog.

We have 13 lifeguards and 5 concession workers and about to add a swim instructor (4 of the lifeguards including myself are also swim instructors).  We have things going on from 7am to 9pm most days and usually have more people offering to work than we do shifts (especially the 7-8 am lapswim/water aerobics)

Things are running a little different this year, the city of Spring Grove has contracted out to a company to help run the pool.  The goal is to save money, not many 90°+ days to make a profit, and there has been a lot of bugs, but every worker we started with for opening day has pushed thru the turmoil and is still with us, half way thru our first month and I am proud of them.

It’s also good to know that even though they could have decided to go somewhere else to work, maybe for better pay, maybe for less, and with less stress of all this new and different and confusing stuff, they are still here, to keep kids safe this summer.  If you read, you know about the Baywatch guards, and we don’t have any of those this year, and that allows me to sleep at night, at least after my sunburn stops hurting.

I also learned a great tip from them, vanilla keeps away gnats.  I wonder if I could just pour some into the pool and just clear the city of those annoying bugs.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard


After my last post, I noticed I had 3 drafts from 2011, The Good, The Great, and The UglyBecoming A Lifeguard, and If it's Brown.  I read thru them and there isn't any reason not to post them, so now I have.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

The Good, The Great, and The Ugly

Please note that the following is an egocentric rambling of bad lifeguards and represent only the opinions and nightmares of the Camping Lifeguard and not necessarily that of other lifeguards, blogspot, or Google ;)

I like to classify lifeguards into 3 different categories. I have had both the fortune and misfortune to work with all of them. There are lifeguards who became certified for the same reason I did, they like to work with kids. Many camp counselors fall into this category, including myself.

Along with that are the lifeguards who became a lifeguard so they can get a job. Most of these guards are actually quite good at their job and maybe are a little more focused at small loads of swimmers compared to those of us like me who will hang around the family and chat with them and teach the little ones how to swim. Paying attention in their certification class they know the horrors of what can happen as a lifeguard, and wanting their certification they try their hardest to pass.

There is also a subgroup of that, which are guards part of the time, and water athletes the rest.  For some reason they are highly attracted to chlorine and are always in the water or watching it.  Their time doing sports makes them focused, their time in the water makes them fast.  They will have you out of the water before you know your drowning.  These are especially the ones you want in a lake or ocean.

Then there are the lifeguards who cause nightmares and waking up in a cold sweat…the Baywatch guards. Disclaimer: I have never watched Baywatch nor do I want to, but based on what I have heard of that show I would probably curl up on the couch and cry at the horrors. These guards are mainly teens who want the money, but also want the cute high school girls or guys and what better place then where you can show off your sexy tan body and never have to wear a shirt. And with a tight swimsuit on the girls and naked arms on the men, it’s all about the curves!

I worked at a pool the summer after my freshman year of college, where most of the guards were they Baywatch type. I have many stories about that pool and the guards there, but one stood out the most, whose antics almost resulted in at least 3 concussions and a drowning, and that was during my shifts. It appears that a way to impress girls is to take a basketball and wing it across the pool and put it into a hoop. Well, he never got the hoop, but instead went past it and not one time did the ball land more than a foot from a child. Had ball found head, we would have to deal with an unconscious child and very angry parent.

The scariest incident by this lifeguard came while I was guarding the diving board… In the diving well there is a diving board and a set of drop-slides. Dumb Dumb decided that a fun way to flirt with the lifeguard on the opposite side of the deep end from me was to jump off the diving board and towards her. He however landed at the same time a little girl, maybe 8 years old, plopped out of the drop slide nearest to the board and hit the water. Under normal conditions this would have worked out fine, as the slide and board have about 6-8 feet between them. Dumb Dumb decided though that the closer he got to his target the better, which resulted in about a foot gap between him and the little girl. After scolding this on break lifeguard, his response was "Chill out dude, I know what I am doing." Make sure you mention that when you do knock out a kid.

I know this may sound a little nuts that this was just part of the issues of that pool, but if you don’t believe me, ask my parents. On the way back up to Ashland, my dad told me it was ok to flip the pool off as we drove by.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

Becoming A Lifeguard

Back in my junior year of high school I decided to change from an ordinary person who could not swim into a red-suited superhero under the classification of lifeguard (still waiting for my cape). I started by volunteering for a summer camp called Day Camp Adventures. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday our camp would travel to a different pool around central Iowa to spend the afternoon swimming. There was one pool that everyone loved to go to in southern Iowa, about 2 hours away known as Beach Ottumwa. The large complex had a 60ft speed slide and a wave pool. After everyone is ready to swim most of us would head to the speed slide for a ride. A fear of heights and falling off the slide to my death resulted in only one rid per visit, so I would then head to the wave pool. While a panic attack for lifeguards, this was the main stop for most of our kids including our younger ones. During one sequence of waves two of our 7 year olds could not take the waves and needed to be pulled out. The other lifeguards were focused on the deeper water and didn't notice the two girls, but being within arms reach of both I pulled them to the shallower end with less activity and crazy kids on inner tubes. This event was the turning point of becoming a lifeguard.

Being a nerd, lets just say I was NOT athletic. My parents made me do track in 8th grade but I did not enjoy it. It did though improve my mile time to under 12 minutes. At my school everyone had to run the mile at least once per year of gym class and I did not want to do that again. I had to find some way out of it, and my high school offered it…a free lifeguarding class. No mile, no basketball, and 125$ off normal lifeguarding class fee. Having already decided to become a lifeguard, the universe was calling for me to don the red swimsuit with white cross. The universe and I overlooked one very important fact…I do not know how to swim.

Try as they might every swim lesson my parents and grandparents enrolled me in did not fair well. I wasn't afraid of the water or anything, I loved it. However if I am put into a pool, I am going down to the bottom of the deep end to sit as long as I can. Sinking did not require swimming skills. Coming back up was fine as long as you stayed near the wall or doggy paddle, which I could. A prerequisite of the lifeguarding class is being able to swim 300 yards using the front craw and breaststroke, which yes people, they are two totally different things. Having a car at that point, I would go to the YMCA next to my high school every Monday and Wednesday morning for about six weeks to practice swimming. There was no swim instructor or anyone to teach me to swim, just lappets. Well once I got into the water I would sink down to the bottom and watch the swimmers go back and forth, then when I came up for air I would mimic what I just saw.

A few weeks later winter semester started and it was time for my class. Very first day was the prerequisites test. Front craw 100 yards, breaststroke 100 yards, then do either one of them again. I got in there and hopped in the water and did my first set of 100. I didn't notice anyone else in the water so I thought I was doing something before I was suppose to so I stopped and looked around. The other students were trying to figure out how to do the front craw. Score 1 point for me; I can swim better than the rest of my class! I stayed ahead for all of the class and was conferrable enough I did not freak when strapped into the board like one of the students did.
I have now been certified for 6 years and still going strong. Have guarded for 3 pools and a lakefront, I have seen rescues, crazy kids, crazy parents, good guards, bad guards, and poop. Lots of poop.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

If it's Brown

Please note that the following acknowledges that there is more than just water in pools. Reader discretion is advised

Guarding for 6 years, I have come up with a phase, "if it’s brown and floating around, get out of town!" To put it bluntly, shit happens…a lot.

My first pool, the local YMCA, was the pool where I was certified. It was also the first time I had to clean up a stranger's poop. Occasionally when lifeguarding you see stuff float by the lifeguard chair. Any good pool has enough of a current that diving rings will be constantly moving towards the deep end. If something is brown, it’s a good idea to grab the scoop net to remove it. Normal procedure at the Y is to first close the pool and direct people to take a good long shower. Step two is to remove the solid waste and add chlorine to the pool to shock it. Step three is waiting 45 minutes for the pool to cycle thru the filter and get cleaned. 45 minutes later the chlorine levels drop to less than 7 parts per million and swimmers can go back in.

Most of the time it was that routine, though you cant help but laugh every time it happens. Then there was the night that no body laughed.

I came in to lifeguard at 5 pm that night and upon entering the Y I noticed there were no swimmers in the water. I figured it was just another quiet night, then I got to the office and talked to the lifeguards. About 40 minutes ago they had to close the pool due to some do. Yay, a 5-minute break before I guard. Too bad I am just ready to work. After a check of the chemical we deemed it safe to open the pool, so one of the guards went home and the other guard and I went out to open the doors and let people in. There was a small crowd there playing in the wells (super shallow area with water sprayers) and the slide, so I sod next to the wells and the other guard went up to the top of the slide. After about 15 minutes I notice something. Something brown. Something floating. Time to grab the net.

Usually you can tell just by how it floats around but it still helps to scoop it up and out to verify, which is what I did. I scooped it out and stared at it. Then I make eye contact with the lifeguard on top of the slide, then one of the dads at the pool. I did not say a single word; everyone just started climbing out of the water. For all we know it could be from the last attack, but it could be fresh and we don't take chances here. Without a word everyone knew that if I am staring into the scoop, I caught something and its time to go home. 45 minutes later we reopened to a quiet and peaceful night.

Another incident that stood out at my Y is that…well lets just say not everything on the pool deck that looks like mud is mud. I had just walled in to lifeguard and noticed next to our office door this big pile of mud. Well I am still early so I figure I might as will clean it up. How that much mud got there I don't know, but it had to be wider than my foot is long. I went to go get a few paper towels and using them I reached down to scoop up some of the mud, and...mud does not have that consistency. No it was constant and the inside was a much lighter color than the outside. A quick glance at the lifeguards and they know what I found too. If it’s on the deck, we don't need to close the pool but a quick look in the well said that we do. Yay for 45-minute break, boo to cleaning up after someone. I don't know but my thought is some kid in the well started to overrun its dippers and decided to get out, then sat down on the deck next to a bench and let it out the rest of the way? I will never know, and not sure I want to.

At college we have a slightly different policy, leave it there. Luckily we have so few swimmers that come in that it does not happen much, only twice since I started, but here is has happened. I was working a Thursday shift, which I seem to have to cover a lot of, and I noticed poop in the water. I did the usual clear the pool and scoop out what I could but couldn't get most of it. I then called maintenance to have them address the problem, as they do all the work. Well by then maintenance had gone home for the night and a quick call to my boss informed me to close the pool, and he will call maintenance in the morning. Right there is 12 hours where the pool is closed and contaminated. Then the email came, pool is closed the rest of the day. On Saturday I talked to maintenance directly and they didn't think the pool wouldn’t be ready to open till Monday. Actually they didn't say that, but since they don’t come in on Sunday we had no idea if it was safe or not, so we waited till Monday when they came in to clear it.

Then there is the less processed food in the pool, and lets just say that it’s much worse. I personally am fine with poop and blood cleanup, but any kind of puke makes me do the same. On another Thursday afternoon shift at about 4:30, there were no swimmers in the pool. I decided to walk around the pool and look at the bottom and inspect it, just as we should. In one corner of the deep end I noticed something odd, maybe one of those big hairballs that sometimes form bundles of tumbleweed. I stuck the net on a pool in the water to pull it up. In the bottom of the net was defiantly not hair, but something else. Looking closely I saw some beans. Beans and hotdogs. In the pool. Someone must have puked hotdogs and beans into the pool.

I hadn't seen anyone all shift, and during the previous two shifts it was only lap swimmers, and they would have told the guards if they lost their lunch or breakfast. After reporting it and closing the pool, I remembered something, the night before was a large group of kids that came in after dinner. They did it! Like the previous poop incident I mentioned, it took till the next Monday to clean up. What I did not expect was what happened the next Tuesday during a shift. No, I didn't find more puke, or some poop, it was worse. In the deep end I could tell there were still beans down there. Four days of closure and they still didn't clean it all. I should have informed my boss and had the pool closed for another four days, but I felt like there was no point. Hopefully, they shocked the pool and at least killed the bacterial and other nasties.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

Busy Busy

Sorry I was hoping to make more posts but working 12+ hours a day takes a lot out of you.  We start 8 am swim lessons tomorrow, so don't expect much from me.  I am here though, lifeguarding and camping (except for weekends).

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Round 2

Never thought you'd hear from him again did you? He's back. And this time his tent way too small.